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Our Kind of Traitor - Film Review

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by Douglas Sutherland-Bruce (subscribe)
Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at:
Published July 11th 2016
Cat and mouse in Marrakesh and the Alps
Once upon a time heroes in spy novels were tall, broad-shouldered and English. If they smoked at all it was a pipe, gripped between white, even teeth, and they were unfailingly kind and polite to women.

Then in 1963 David Cornwell wrote a novel called The Spy Who Came from the Cold, which turned the whole genre on its head. He wrote under the pen name of John Le Carré as he actually worked as a MI5 officer and knew how things operated. (Le Carré means 'the square' in French).

Since then he has published more than twenty-five novels, including those about George Smiley and the 'Circus'. They are immensely popular and the author has been piled high with awards and plaudits.

Several of the books have been filmed for the screen and television with considerable success. The latest of these is his 2010 novel Our Kind of Traitor, filmed with Ewen McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård and Damian Lewis.

Our Kind of Traitor, Ewen McGregor, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard, Russian Mafia, John Le Carré
Damian Lewis in Our Kind of Traitor (Photo courtesy of Studio Canal)

The plot is, for a Le Carré novel, surprisingly simple. A British couple, a University lecturer Perry Makepiece (McGregor) and his barrister wife Gail (Naomie Harris) are on a romantic holiday in Marrakech where they meet fortuitously a money-launderer for the Russian Mafia, Dima (Skarsgård) who charms them into helping him and his family defect.

Complications ensue and the two traipse around Europe in spectacular scenery accompanied by MI6 officers, Russian oligarchs and large numbers of family.

The photography is absolutely stunning, the views of the French Alps were glorious and some of the camera angles tracking a car through a snow-covered pine forest were breath-taking. (Cinematography is by Anthony Dod Mantle).

You can see the official trailer here.

I confess I haven't read this particular novel so I can't tell you how far the film diverges from the book, but from where I sat there were plot holes you could drive a phaeton and four through.

Our Kind of Traitor, Ewen McGregor, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgard, Russian Mafia, John Le Carré
Ewen McGregor in Our Kind of Traitor (Photo courtesy of Studio Canal)

Perry (McGregor) smokes cigarettes, snorts cocaine and has committed adultery with one of his students so he's not the traditional sort of hero - God knows what Bulldog Drummond would have said.

In short the movie is slick, has surprising overtones from the sixties, glorious scenery, amazing music and talented actors, and I still don't know if I enjoyed it.

Fun trivia - the old museum guard checking tickets in the Bern museum is played by John Le Carré himself. He's not in the credits, but that's him.


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*Douglas Sutherland-Bruce was invited as a guest
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Why? Stunningly photographed spy caper in 60s style
When: See session guide
Your Comment
Thanks for the review. I think my husband would like this movie.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7956) 1455 days ago
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